“Life is a series of choices. The objective is to choose wisely more often than you choose poorly.” I’ve heard my husband repeat that advice over and over to others. As simple as it sounds, it is sage advice. Life is all about choices. We are all the sum total of the choices we make each and every day and the objective is to draw our last breath with the confidence that those choices all netted out to a full, complete and outrageously wonderful life!
The art of making choices can be a bit overwhelming for many. Lord knows that life throws a ton of them at us: where to go to college, who to choose as a mate, what career path to invest our passion in, where to work, where to live, where to send our children to school, etc. If you start lining up all the really big choices we make and all the options we have to choose wisely, your head will spin. Unfortunately, I truly think therein lies the challenge for most; not having the life skills necessary to make good choices results in many people becoming so paralyzed by the thought of choosing, that they do nothing. They simply drift in life and let circumstances choose for them. They may think they are choosing, but in reality they are abdicating responsibility and leaving their future to fate. Trust me that is not choosing wisely.
“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” –Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf
The art of making good choices is a learned behavior. For most of us, it is taught when we are young. Good parents instill the behavior of making smart choices to little ones in the simple options they give to children: salad or ice cream … the choice to study versus watch television the night before a difficult test … chores and allowance vs. laziness and being broke. Helping your children learn the difficult skill of making positive, appropriate choices is a big part of parenting well. A child who is skilled at consciously making choices will understand her own needs, and gain a sense of control over her own life.
But what if no one taught you to choose wisely?
Good decision-making first comes with being clear on what it is you are really deciding. Don’t get all tangled up in your shorts about the secondary decisions and peripherals. Make sure you really understand the heart of the decision you are making. If you don’t nail that one correctly, all of the others will never fall into place.
Case in point, a dear friend once was offered a promotion that required relocation to a new city. The money was great and the opportunity was one that most people would be envious of. Multiple trips to look for the right school district for their children and home for their family kept turning up fruitless. Everyone was frustrated with the inability to find something to get settled. After a year of one spouse commuting and the other behind with the children, still making trips to house and school hunt, the family dynamics were coming apart at the seams. Another opportunity to return back to “home” arose and was taken.
The choice was never about the right schools and location, it was about whether it was the right time to uproot the family and do we need “more.” Be sure you know your values and your goals. In this case, more money and more prestige didn’t outweigh the importance of family stability and allowing children to finish critical milestone school years in familiar surroundings.
Choosing wisely also comes by balancing how much time you spend on making the right decision with how important that decision is. Unfortunately, most people put ‘time’ and ‘difficulty’ on the scales, not ‘time’ and ‘importance.’ Don’t waste a lot of time on decision-making on trivial things that don’t have a huge impact on life in the grand scheme of things. If you researched your future employers, your career options, your choice of spouse with the same focus and energy as you do your next car or computer purchase, would your station in life be better? Think about it. You get out of life what you put into it!
Always keep in mind as you navigate the pathways of life that the decisions you make are yours. Only you can place a value on the importance of the choices you make and the outcomes of your decisions. Don’t fall into the pitfalls of seeking everyone else’s opinion or trying to get consensus before you make a decision. What you value as important is unique to you and you will undoubtedly be disappointed if you try to please others or base your decisions on the “sound” advice of the well-intention counsel of those around you.
Know your goals and do your homework and when you do, you will choose wisely.
- 3 Things to Keep in Mind When Making Decisions (lifehack.org)
- Raising Good Decision Makers (kidzedge.com)
- I’m Thankful for my Frontal Lobe: For I am the Sum of my Decisions (psychologistmimi.com)
- Decision making model from “Making Smart Choices” (learnpolicydebate.wordpress.com)
- Words To Live By: Decisions and Decisiveness (onewebstrategy.wordpress.com)